A good trading system is about much more than just selecting stocks. Certainly that is important as well. However, a good trading system will provide the ability for you to protect against losses, manage your money, add proper leverage when necessary, and also select a stock selection maximizing your reward and minimizing your risk.
The guess work is taken out of the way for you. The stock is purchased when criteria is met, the amount of stock purchased is also based on certain criteria. The stock is sold when criteria met, and there are protective measures against a stock’s demise, and where possible and appropriate leverage is created to maximize the returns without taking on more risk than you can handle.
This trading system will be talked about in 5 additional parts in addition to this intro. This post is designed to explain the trading system, its functions and how it operates.
1) Exit strategy. Every good system trader will first know the exit strategy. It doesn’t matter what vehicle selection you use, if you have no exit strategy, you’re stuck. The trick is to understand that unless you want to get trapped in an investment you have to know when you’re getting out.
A good exit strategy has both loss protection, and profit taking, and sometimes even a 3rd stop. The first 2 might be a maximum loss, and a maximum gain before taking profits, while the 3rd one will be a trailing stop that rides the gains up, and will sell the remaining shares. There are other exit strategies such as hold forever and write covered calls against it to collect income, or protective puts in place of a stop-loss.
2) Protection. Although #1 covers most of the protection, there are several other ways to protect yourself. Protection is vital to allow you to stay in the game. Many people know that if you lose 20% you need a 25% gain to make up for it. Losses not only can result in a series of losses that wipe you out, but they also hinder your ability to gain in the future. a 95% loss for example requires a 2000% nearly impossible goal to make up for this loss. So even if you flip a coin and have a 50% chance of gaining 200% or 50% chance of losing 95% of it, you should probably not take it if all your money is at risk, because it doesn’t have the downside protection A series of wins followed by 1 loss would prevent your ability to stay in the game. Even though those odds SEEM fair, they are not without proper protection. Protection ensures that you won’t have that 95% loss, and it absolutely restricts that loss to a fixed amount, rather than take 100% risk.
Such forms of protections are writing calls, in this situation you are given a premium so if the stock tanks to zero in a worst case scenario you’d still end up with the premium, this is minimal protection, and only protects a marginal amount of decline before the losses continue. The other form of protection would be buying a protective put. This actually in fact does protect against catastrophic losses. The lower your stock goes if/when it crashes, the more you make from your put or puts. You are the one paying a small amount in order to protect against any sort of decline below the designated price. The lower this price, the cheaper the option. If a stock is at $50 and you buy a protective put at a strike price of 40, you will NOT be protected against losses from 50 to 40, but beyond that you will be protected to the downside.
These are somewhat more sophisticated forms of protection. Basic forms of protection are diversifying, and perhaps being short. If you buy a stock at $100, and you short one in the same sector at $100, if the whole sector goes up, you are betting not that the market will go up, not that the sector will go up, but that stock A that you are long will outperform stock B in a bull market, and stock B will under perform stock A in a down market. This offers protection although it may limit the gains as well, Plus, you actually have to be right in your thesis.
In addition, if you are short, and the stock market booms, you may get a margin call and be forced to sell. Also, if you do not use money management, you are at risk of a short term swing requiring you to sell all of your shares of the stock that went up, in order to pay for those that you were short that went up, and if you can’t cover your short, your entire account is in jeopardy of being wiped out.
So rather than being short, I recommend replacing it with buying put options, although this has lots of risks involving time decay as well that you must understand before investing. Using a business entity such as a C Corp or a LLC is another form of protection that can protect you potentially against higher taxes, and personal financial trouble such as a bankruptcy on your record if you intend on using forms of leverage such as loans.
3) Money Management and Control. A good trading system will have a form of control. it will allow you to not give up that control when things go bad. In other words, it allows you to manage your money. Money management is very important. Perhaps one of the most important things is position sizing. If you buy $10,00 of stock for one stock when you only have $10,000 in your account this is very poor money management. Continue to do this, and eventually you will suffer a large loss which will be great, and it will be very difficult to gain enough to make up for it. In addition, if the price goes lower depending on your system, you may want to give yourself flexibility. Extra cash on the sides is another form of money management. It doesn’t have to be cash per say, but some form of safety. Various forms of currency, sometimes some gold, bonds, and money market accounts that are all fairly liquid would be a few examples.
4) Leverage Leverage is about using your abilities to gain, the strength of your trading system and various tools to minimize risk, and increase gain. When you take on leverage, you should be able to reduce your position size in comparison to your capital, and still have a similar reward or gain. Forms of leverage include options, the further out of money option you purchase, the more leverage you have if that stock does make a strong move. You can also sell options to raise capital to invest in some cases.
Another from of leverage is a loan. Whether it’s a credit card, a home equity loan, going on margin, or a business loan for an asset holding company, or even taking a company public and using the capital to invest, the idea is to gain money at x% and to invest it and make a greater return than x%. if you can do this, and manage money well, and protect yourself, Your gain is only limited to the amount of capital you can borrow at the maximum of slightly less than what you expect to gain. Generally however, if you use a loan, you should have a form of cash flow or income that will cover the costs of the loan just in case your investment goes wrong. That’s another form of money management while using leverage. Money management should be treated much differently under different forms of leverage.
5) Finally, the stock selection vehicle. You need some method to select your vehicle, based on this and your other factors you will determine time horizon and a methodology of trading. The system will help you choose your trading stocks, and exactly what to do with them. You can play around with different trading systems, but generally you should first attempt a good exit strategy and make sure your controls on parts 1-4 of your trading system are sound, and try tweaking them
Stock Trading Systems that are well defined will leave very little room for error. If you learn to use a trading system, you can choose to enhance the essential skills it takes to making your trading system better.
Unfortunately, many day traders are slaves to the computer screen and can miss a moment. Focus on building the better trading system, and not placing the better trade, and you will give yourself some valuable time. If you are really using a system, you don’t need to be the one to place the trades, and can instead higher someone to do the work for you. You can use that extra time to improve your system, or find new ways to invest, or learn how to become a better trader.